Feeling Valued

Name: Ellery Wealot

Pronouns: He/him

Period: 2017-2018

Quintessential Co-op Memory? Marching around the kitchen with people playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” on a variety of band instruments.

Most Memorable Meeting? Whether or not to purchase raisins as part of the house meal plan

Favorite Maintenance Project? Refinishing a floor in a 3rd floor bedroom

What do you do now? Lives in Seward neighborhood, Minneapolis; works in Capital Markets and Compliance Billing

What does the Co-op mean to you?
I moved to the Twin Cities in October 2016, after graduating from the University of Minnesota- Morris the spring prior. I moved into a one-bedroom apartment in East St. Paul, paying $840 per month for a three-month lease. It was the most affordable single-occupant housing I had been able to find.

I had two part-time jobs lined up: an internship researching rural business retention strategies in the US MidWest and a role as a teller at a local credit union. I had very little money. I remember worrying about whether I could afford Tylenol and savoring a quart of mint-chip ice-cream that I had regretted buying after realizing I couldn’t afford it.

I was also lonely. I had no friends or connections in the area and had a long commute to work, meaning I got home each night at 7pm, cooked and ate dinner, washed my dishes, watched an episode of Parks and Recreation on my laptop, and then went to bed around 9pm– so I could get up at 5:30am the next morning to rinse and repeat.

Given my social situation; I was immediately drawn to the community of kind, welcoming people at the Students’ Co-op. Of course, it also helped that I was familiar with (and very passionate about) cooperative business models and social enterprises. And while I knew the housing was more affordable than my current situation, it wasn’t until after I applied that I discovered that rent was only $300 a month, with an optional $60 per month meal plan on top of that, which provided access to fresh, organic produce and other local foods purchased in bulk.

I moved into the co-op in January 2017, and what followed was arguably the happiest year of my life. I able to save huge amounts of money on rent, which allowed me to build my emergency savings, eat healthier, and replace my 200,000 mile ’98 Jeep Grand Cherokee (which had just about every problem you can imagine an old car having, including mysterious pools of water that would form in the backseat every summer). More importantly, I was validated and uplifted by a community of people who loved me and believed in me. I had people to share meals with, including our weekly supper club. I often helped prepare supper-club, sometimes disastrously (like the time we tried to make homemade pizza and somehow ended up with several gallons of sauce), but always memorably, for better or worse. I had people with whom I could share brunch, exercise, jog across Stone-Arch Bridge, watch movies, go on road trips, laugh, and cry. The members of the co-op trusted me with leadership positions within the house and made sure I knew my ideas and aspirations for the co-op were valid, even if they didn’t always receive a passing vote at a house meeting. It was a space where I felt loved and valued.

In May 2018, I recognized that it was time to find new ways to learn and grow– and that perhaps living with thirty college students into my late twenties might not be ideal. I moved out of the co-op but took several pieces with me– in the form of other co-op members who moved out with me into a new home in Seward neighborhood. That is the home I still live in today.

Five years later, my financial stability and the majority of my community of friends can all be traced back to the Students’ Co-op in some way. Some of these are people I live with, and some of them are spread across the US or even the world. Even those I lost touch with had a profound impact on me, challenging the way I view the world and the way I treat myself and others. I am truly grateful for my time at the Students’ Co-op, and I hope that others can be fortunate enough to have the same experience in the years to come.